Deck the Halls: Holiday Decorating & Lighting Safety Tips
While many of us think of the holiday season with fond memories and festive hopes, it is also, unfortunately, a common time for tragedy. Over 30% of all home fires occur during the winter months of December, January, and February, with an average of 230 home fires starting with Christmas trees, and another “160 home fires beginning with holiday lights and another decorative lighting” (ESFI). Luckily, with some proactive prevention, you can nearly eliminate the risk of a home fire this season.
Holiday Decorating & Lighting Safety
Christmas lights make the holidays festive and bright, but they come with their own safety and fire risks. Here are a few holiday decorating and lighting safety tips, courtesy of NFPA, ESFI, and the National Safety Council:
- When purchasing artificial trees, holiday lights, and other electrical-related products, only use merchandise that has been certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (look for the UL label).
- Always follow the manufacturer guidelines, and make sure that your lights and extension cords have been labeled for outdoor use if using them outside your home. There are many counterfeit electrical products out there, so double-check the packaging for a UL label (or similar).
- Check cords and lights for damage, corrosion, wear and tear, bare wires, and loose connections. Repair or replace these items immediately. They are not safe for use.
- For most holiday light strings, it is recommended that you use no more than three sets per extension cord. Check the box to make sure you aren’t overloading your circuit.
- Never run extension cords in high traffic areas, under rugs, around furniture legs, out windows, or across doorways. If you need extra outlets, have them professionally installed.
- When hanging lights, make sure you have firm support and never use tacks, staples, or nails. Instead, use plastic clips and insulated holders. Not only do they do a better job keeping your lights in place, but they are safe, Multi-applicational, and reusable too. Just make sure your holiday lights are secure enough to withstand heavy winds. Do not allow plugs and cords to sit in puddles and snow.
- Keep a minimum 3-foot clearance around all open flames and heating equipment, such as space heaters, furnaces, stoves, candles, and radiators. This is especially important around your Christmas tree.
- Speaking of Christmas trees, make sure you check the water level daily and make sure the stump is submerged in water. One sign of a dry tree is lots of falling pine needles. Check for freshness when purchasing a tree for your home. A dry tree can erupt in flames from a simple light bulb.
- Blow out all candles and turn off all lights and decorations before leaving the house or going to bed.
- Take lights down after the holidays. These lights are meant for temporary us only.
Home fires aren’t the only thing you should worry about this holiday season. Falls and extension cords accidents are also a common occurrence this time of year. Here are are few ladder safety tips:
- Always use a sturdy step stool or ladder. Never us chairs, tables, or any other furniture.
- Barricade the door and post a notice if you are working near an entranceway.
- When using a ladder, grip the rungs and not the side rails. Also, make sure you have at least two feet and one hand on the laffer at all times.
- Never lean too far or overreach. Your hips should always be within the width of the side rails.
- Use a quality, slip-free ladder that is the correct height.
- If there are high winds or slippery conditions, wait until the weather gets better to complete your decorating.
For some more holiday electrical safety tips, see this “Pull the Plug on Cord-Related Hazards this Holiday Season” infographic from ESFI:
If you have further questions about electrical and lighting safety, we'll be glad to answer any of your questions!
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Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season!